Anthony_Sermons - (MORAL SERMON)
11. The almond-tree shall flourish, etc. In these three there are represented anagogically the resurrection of the body, the glorification of the soul, and the destruction of death. Let us look briefly at each.
The resurrection of the body: The almond-tree shall flourish. There is something similar in Job 14:
A tree hath hope. If it be cut, it groweth green again, and the boughs thereof sprout. If its root be old in the earth, and its stock be dead in the dust: at the scent of water it shall spring, and bring forth leaves, as when it was first planted. (Jb 14,7-9)
The ‘tree’ is the human body, which, though it be cut down by death’s axe, and grows old in the earth, and rots and is reduced to dust: yet a man should have hope that it will grow green again, that is, that he will rise again; and that his limbs will ‘sprout’ and, at the scent of water (the kindness of the divine wisdom,) will ‘spring’ in glory, and ‘put forth leaves’ in immortality, just as when it was first planted in Paradise. "The first state of man in Paradise was to be able not to die; because of sin, his punishment was not to be able not to die; there remains this third state in that happiness, not to be able to die." Thus, The almond-tree shall flourish. So the Psalm says:
My flesh hath flourished again: and with my will I will give praise to him. (Ps 27,7)
Note that the flesh of man flourished in Paradise before sin; it ceased to flower after sin, but it will flourish again in the Resurrection of Christ, and will flourish to the full, flourish perfectly, in the general resurrection.
12. And then, The locust shall grow fat, the glorification of the soul. As it is said:
I shall be satisfied when thy glory shall appear. (Ps 16,15)
So the Psalm says:
He fed them with the fat of wheat: and filled them with honey out of the rock. (Ps 80,17)
The wheat and the rock are Christ, God and man. In the misery of the way, he is wheat to us, because he refreshes us; he is a rock, because he receives those who fly to him and defends those he receives. Thus:
The rock is a refuge for the rabbits, (Ps 103,18)
meaning converted sinners. In the glory of our homeland he will be to us the fat of wheat and honey from the rock, because he will feed us with the glory of his humanity and satisfy us with the sweetness of his divinity. So the last chapter of Isaiah says:
You shall see and your heart shall rejoice (the fatness of the locust)
and your bones shall flourish like an herb (the flower of the almond). (Is 66,14)
You will see the glory of his humanity, and your heart shall rejoice in the sweetness of his divinity.
13. And then, The caper shall be scattered. So the Apostle says in I Corinthians 15:
When this corruptible hath put on incorruption, and this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying (in Isaiah): Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. (1Co 15,53-57)
Blessed is he for ever! Amen.
1 cf. GREGORY, Moralia XXXI,25,46; PL 76.599
2 P.COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, liber Genesis, 15; PL 198.1069
3 RICHARD OF ST VICTOR, De eruditione hominis interioris, III,1; PL 196.1229
4 RICHARD OF ST VICTOR, Beniamin maior, V,14; PL 196.186
5 RICHARD OF ST VICTOR, ibid.; PL 196.185
6 RICHARD OF ST VICTOR, op. cit. V,15; PL.196.187
7 cf. P.LOMBARD, Sententiae II, dist. 19,1
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
1. At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: Let not your heart be troubled. (Jn 14,1)
There are three things among the rest to be noted especially: the eternity of the heavenly mansion, the truth of faith, and the equality of Father and Son.
2. The eternity of the heavenly mansion: Let not your heart be troubled. Natural History says that the heart is the source and principle of the blood, and the first member that receives blood; it is the principle of movement regarding objects of desire or aversion, and the movements of every sense universally begin from it and return to it; its power extends to every member. Let not your heart be troubled, then, because if it is troubled, all your members will be troubled.
And note that hearts differ in greatness and smallness, softness and hardness. The hearts of animals which lack feeling are hard, while the hearts of sensitive animals are soft. Also, an animal which has a large heart is timid, while that which has a smaller one is more bold. And the effect of fear in such an animal is due to the lack of heat in its heart, which cannot fill it; for a small amount of heat in large hearts grows weaker, and so the blood grows colder. The hearts of hares, deer, asses, mice, and other fearful animals, are large; Just as a small fire warms a large house less than a small one, so it is with the heat in these. The ‘large heart’ is the proud heart; the ‘small heart’ is the humble heart. The ‘soft heart’ is the merciful and compassionate heart, which they have who feel sorrow or loss at another’s need. The ‘hard heart’ is the avaricious heart which belongs to those who have no feeling. The ‘large heart’, the proud heart, is fearful, because the heat of love for God or neighbour in it is small and cold; and so it is quickly troubled, because it quickly fears. So that your heart may not be troubled, let it be humble, because therein will be a great warmth of love, and a great power of acting rightly.
Note, too, that the heart alone among the inner members can suffer no pain or great sickness. And this is right, because when the principle is corrupted, it can in no wise help the remaining members. The other members derive strength from the heart, not the heart from them. Therefore:
Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. (Jn 14,27)
Among those things that most trouble the heart is the loss of something loved. Christ foretold his Passion to his disciples; because they loved him greatly, they feared to lose him, and so were able to be troubled. He consoled them, saying, : Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid because of the death of my flesh, because I am God, who will raise up the flesh. And so he added:
You believe in God, believe also in me, (Jn 14,1)
because I am God. Note that he said ‘in God’, not just ‘God’, or ‘that God (is)’. The demons also believe that God is, and tremble (Jc 2,19). "He ‘believes God’ who simply believes his words, but does nothing good. But he believes ‘in God’ who loves him with all his heart and strives to adhere to his members."1
3. You believe in God. St Augustine’s Gloss says, "Lest they be afraid because of the death of a mere man, and be therefore troubled, he consoles them by telling them that he is also God. Lest they should still fear for themselves, that they might perish from him, he reassures them that after temptations they will abide in God’s house with Christ." So he adds:
In my Father’s house there are many mansions. (Jn 14,2)
Consider the pomegranate, all of whose seeds exist under a single skin, yet each seed has its own proper cell. So, in the glory of eternity, there will be one house, one penny, one and the same measure of life; yet an individual dwelling place for each, because in the same eternity there will be different dignities, one glory of the sun, another of the moon, another of the stars. "Yet in unequal glories there will be equal joy, because I shall rejoice over your glory just as I do over mine, and you over mine just as over your own."2 For instance: Here we are, together. I have a rose in my hand. It is my rose, yet you are equally refreshed by its beauty and scent, as I am. So it will be in eternal life; my glory will be your refreshment and joy, and vice versa. In that clear glory there will be such a transparency of bodies that I can see myself in your face as in a mirror, and you yours in mine; and from this will arise an inexpressible love. So Augustine3 says, "What will be that love, when we each see our own faces in each other’s, just as now we see one another’s faces?" In that brightness, all will be clear, nothing hidden or obscure to one another.
So Apocalypse 21 says:
The city of Jerusalem was pure gold, like to clear glass. (Ap 21,18)
The heavenly Jerusalem is called ‘pure gold’, because of the brightness of the glorified
bodies; which will be like clear glass, because in clear glass whatever is inside appears clearly outside, and so in that vision of peace all the secrets of the heart will be open to all, and therefore they will burn towards one another with a furnace of unquenchable and inexpressible charity. At the moment we do not truly love one another as we should, because we hide ourselves in darkness and separate ourselves from one another in the secrets of the heart; and so charity has grown cold and iniquity has abounded (cf. Mt 24,12).
There follows: If it were not so, I would have told you. "The precise sense is, "If it were not so, I would have said that it was not so." That is, if these things were not there, I would not have concealed it from you, rather, I would have told you that they are not there. But you do know (you must understand) because I go to prepare a place for you (Jn 14,2)."4 A father prepares a place for his son, and a bird a nest for its chicks. So Christ has prepared a place of rest in eternal life for us, and he has first prepared the way by which me may reach it. Blessed is he for ever. Amen.
4. The truth of the faith: I am the way (Jn 14,6), without error for those who seek. Isaiah 35 says of it:
It shall be called the holy way: the unclean shall not pass over it. And this shall be unto you a straight way, so that fools shall not err therein. (Is 35,8)
It is said that he who would be wise, first let him become a fool, that he may be wise (cf. 1Co 3,18). The wise fool does not err in the way of Christ, whose teaching was to despise temporal things and savour those of heaven.
Regarding this, in the book of Numbers 20, when Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom, he said:
We beseech thee that we may have leave to pass through thy country. We will not go through the fields, nor through the vineyards: we will not drink the waters of thy wells: but we will go by the common highway, neither turning aside to the right hand, nor to the left, till we are past thy borders. We will go by the beaten way. (Nb 20,17)
The children of Israel are just men who pass through the land of Edom (‘bloody’), the world which is blood-stained with sins. They do not make a stop there, for, Woe to the inhabitants of the earth (cf. Ap 8,13), they are travellers. Job 21 says of them:
Ask any one of them that go by the way: and you shall perceive that he knoweth these things. Because the wicked man is reserved for the day of destruction: and he shall be brought to the day of wrath. (Jb 21,29-30)
They do not go through the accursed fields of worldly care, wherein Cain killed Abel (‘possession’, and ‘struggle’ of penitence); nor do they go through the vineyards of carnal desire and lust. As it is said, Their vines are of the vineyards of Sodom (Dt 32,32). They do not drink from the well of the Samaritan woman, worldly cupidity, of which he who drinks will thirst again (cf. Jn 4,13). Rather, they go by the common highway, the beaten way who says, I am the way. He was ‘common’ in word, ‘beaten’ in his scourging; ‘common’ in the preaching of the Apostles, ‘beaten’ in persecution; ‘common’, because available to all, ‘beaten’, because trodden underfoot by almost all. The Saracen denies, the Jew blasphemes, the heretic violates, the false Christian scourges by living badly. Only the just man walks humbly and faithfully, turning aside neither to the right hand of prosperity, to grow proud, nor to the left hand of adversity, to be cast down; until, beyond the border of death he enters the land of promise.
5. There follows: The truth (Jn 14,6), without falsehood to those who find it. Of this is said: Truth is sprung out of the earth (Ps 84,12). Christ, the truth, is sprung from the virgin earth. The truth of his faith springs from mother Church; she goes ahead, so that this may follow: To the righteous a light is risen up in darkness (Ps 111,4). He is the truth, of which III Esdras5 3 and 4 speak, where it is told that: ‘three young men, that were of the guard that kept the king’s body, wrote these things: the first, that wine is strong; the second, that the king is stronger; the third (this was Zorobabel (3Esd 4.13)) that women are the strongest, but that above all things truth is victorious’ (cf. 3Esd 3.4,10-12).
Great is the truth, and stronger than all things.
All the earth calleth upon the truth, and the heaven blesseth it.
The king is wicked, women are wicked, all the children of men are wicked, and all their works are wicked; and there is no truth in them: in their wickedness also they shall perish.
As for the truth, it endureth and is always strong; it liveth and conquereth for evermore.
With her there is no accepting of persons or rewards; but she doeth what is just to all, whether just or wicked. and all men are blessed in her works.
Neither is there any wickedness in her judgement;
but she is the strength, kingdom, power and majesty of all ages.
Blessed be the God of truth. Amen. (3Esd 4.35-40)
Strong is the wine of earthly cupidity, whereby worldly people are made drunk, and run from sin to sin. Stronger is the devil’s pride, he who is king over all the children of pride (Jb 41,25). Stronger is the temptation of the flesh, and of lust. But the truth of Christ is stronger than all of things, and is victorious over all of these.
6. There follows: And the life (Jn 4,6), without death for those who remain in it. He says, I live, and you will live (Jn 14,19). So, in his penultimate chapter, Isaiah says:
As the days of a tree, so shall be the days of my people. (Is 65,22)
The tree planted near the running waters (cf. Ps 1,3), the abundance of spiritual gifts, in the earth of the virgin’s womb, is Jesus Christ whose days are eternal, because ‘of his kingdom there will be no end’ (Lc 1,33); and the days of his chosen and saved people are eternal, because death shall be no more; and he, their God, is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Mc 12,27).
I am the way in example, the truth in promise, the life in reward; the way that does not err, the truth that does not deceive, the life that does not fail.
7. No man cometh to the Father, but by me (Jn 14,6). So he says:
I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved; and he shall go in and go out, and shall find pastures. (Jn 10,9)
"There was a certain gate of Jerusalem called the needle’s eye, through which a camel could not pass, since it was low."6 This doorway is the humble Christ, through which the proud man cannot enter, not the swollen miser; for he who would enter by this way must humble himself and put off his bulk, lest he become stuck in the doorway. He who enter by this door will be saved, if only he perseveres; and he will enter into the Church, to live here by faith, and to go out from this life to live for ever, where he may find the pastures of eternal joy. Amen.
8. The equality of the Father and the Son: Philip saith to him (Jn 14,8). His festival, and that of blessed James, is celebrated today. They live with Christ in the life of the mansions of the heavenly Jerusalem, who while they lived here followed Christ the Way, whose truth they preached to unbelievers, and who today entered through Christ himself the door into the pastures of eternal happiness.
Lord, he said, shew us the Father; and it is enough for us (Jn 14,8). Because he had said that no-one comes to the Father except by him who is inseparably one with the Father, lest they should ask who is the Father, he showed that by knowing him the Father is known, which they did not as yet understand. He rebuked them, saying:
If you had known me, you would without doubt have known my Father also; and from henceforth you shall know him. And you have seen him. (Jn 14,7)
It is as though of two things exactly alike one might say, if you have seen one, you have seen the other. They had seen how the Son was most like, yet they had to be warned that they should understand the Father to be just so also, and not unlike. You have known him already, by knowing me, and have seen him with your heart, when you saw me who am like him in all things.
9. But there were others (of whom Philip was one) who, although they knew this the Son and that the Father, did not think that the Son was entirely similar, but that the Father was better; and so they did not know either the Father or the Son. Being in this mind, Philip said: Shew us the Father, and it is enough for us. There is something similar in Exodus 33, where Moses says to the Lord:
Shew me thy glory. He answered: I will shew thee all good. (Ex 33,18-19)
Philip, he that seeth me seeth the Father also, (Jn 14,9)
and so ‘all good’, from which all good comes, whatever at all is good. Whatever is good, meaning substantial good, extends its goodness to all things that exist. Whatever there is in heaven (as in the angels), whatever is on earth or under the earth, whatever is in the air, whatever is in water, that lives by intellect and reason, or moves itself, or has life and being: it is from that supreme good, the cause of all and fountain-goodness. To him be, therefore, all honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
10. These are two sons of the splendour of oil who stand before the Lord of the whole earth.
This text comes from Zechariah 4 (Za 4,14). There is something similar in Genesis 48:
Joseph took his two sons, Manasses and Ephraim, and set out to go to his father Jacob. Jacob said, Who are these? He answered: They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said: Bring them to me that I may bless them. And he blessed them, saying: God do to thee as to Ephraim and Manasses. (cf. Gn 48
May God do to us as to Philip and James, whom God gave to his Son Jesus Christ in Egypt (the world), in the land of his exile and poverty.
Philip means ‘mouth of a lamp’, and Ephraim ‘fruitful’. These two are well concordant. Philip made fruitful in good works those whom he enlightened with the word of preaching and the lamp of faith. And so it is read in his ‘Life’7 that for twenty years he preached the Gospel insistently to the Gentiles throughout Syria, where he threw down a statue of Mars, beneath which was a most fierce dragon, and put the dragon to flight. He restored health to the sick, raised the dead, and baptised many thousands of men whom he had converted to the faith of Christ.
James means ‘supplanting the one who hastens’, and Manasses is ‘forgetful’. These two names are also harmonious. James, forgetting what lay behind, and temporal things, ‘supplanted’ (i.e. he held his flesh under the foot (cf. Gn 25,25)) in order to hasten what he desired. It is said that he was of great abstinence, not using baths or linen, meat or wine. Because of his outstanding holiness he was made Archbishop of Jerusalem by the Apostles, and called ‘the Just’. He is said to have been a brother of the Lord, much resembling him in features. When the Lord died, he vowed not to eat until Christ should rise, and so it is said that he appeared to him on the very day of the Resurrection, as the Apostle tells:
He was seen by James and by five hundred brethren at once. (1Co 15,6-7)
While he was preaching Jesus Christ to a multitude of people in Jerusalem, he was thrown down from a pinnacle of the temple by the Jews, and being struck on the head with a fuller’s pole, his brains and blood spattered the ground and he passed away to the Lord on this day.
(11.) These are two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies, (Ct 4,5)
that is, the splendours of eternal joy. They are ‘sons of the splendour of oul’, the grace of the Holy Spirit with which they were anointed on the day of Pentecost. So the penultimate chapter of Deuteronomy says:
Let Aser be blessed with children, let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. His shoe shall be iron and brass. (Dt 33,24-25)
Aser (meaning ‘riches’) is Christ, who is not merely ‘rich’, but riches themselves, granting abundantly to all, and never growing less in himself. He is blessed in these two children, wonderful and glorious. He was truly acceptable to his brethren (Go, tell my brethren (Mt
28.10), he said) who he loved so much and by whom he was loved so much. On the day of Pentecost he ‘dipped his foot’ (his Apostles, who were to carry him throughout the world, as a foot carries the body) in the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that they might more
easily bear the labour. The tired foot, when anointed, is refreshed for labour. The shoe of this foot was ‘iron’ (the power of miracles) and ‘brass (the resounding of words). The shoe with which the Apostles were equipped, so that they might safely tread upon serpents and scorpions (Lc 10,19), that is, on demons and wicked men, was their teaching. This had two characteristics- the power to work miracles, to penetrate hard hearts, and resounding preaching to instruct unbelievers.
There follows: who stand before the Lord of the whole earth. ‘Stand’ means here ‘obey’ or ‘minister’. These two Apostles obeyed Jesus Christ, the Lord of all the earth, in their being called and chosen, in their observance of his precepts. They ministered themselves to him, as a sweet-scented sacrifice. Now they stand before him with the angels, praising and blessing him. To him be praise and blessing for ever and ever. Amen.
12. These are two sons. There is something similar in Genesis 44. Jacob said:
You know that my wife bore me two. (Gn 44,27)
His wife was Rachel, mother of Joseph and Benjamin. They represent the love of God and the love of neighbour. Jacob is any just man, and Rachel (whose name means ‘seeing the Lord’, or ‘sheep’) is the soul of the just man, which ‘sees God’ by faith, and is a ‘sheep’ by humility and simplicity. She bears two sons to Jacob, so that he may love God above all things, and his neighbour as himself. The first love is Joseph, the second is Benjamin. Let us look at each.
Joseph (meaning ‘increase’) is the love of God, for the more you love him, the more you receive increase from him and to him. So the Psalm says:
Man shall come to a deep heart: and God shall be exalted. (Ps 63,7-8)
The ‘deep heart’ is the heart of one who loves, desires, contemplates, despises things below. You come to such a heart with steps of devotion. God is exalted, not in himself, but in you. His exaltation is your intensification in love, your elevation in mind. Stretch yourself out, then, to touch him or grasp him (as much as is possible), who is above you, for he himself is reckoned to be on high.
But where does Joseph receive increase? Listen where! Genesis 41 says:
God hath made me to grow in the land of my poverty. (Gn 41,52)
This is what the Lord says:
Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5,3)
See how much he grows, who takes possession of the kingdom of heaven! Oh, how many there are today, who would gladly live a long time in strict poverty, if only they knew for certain that they would afterwards gain the kingdom of France or Spain! Today there is no-one who wants to live in the true poverty of Christ, so as to be able to have the kingdom of heaven. So Proverbs 3 says:
The purchasing thereof is better than the merchandise of silver:
and her fruit (the taste of contemplation) than the chiefest and purest gold.
She is more precious than all riches:
and all the things that are desired are not to be compared with her. (Pr 3,14-15)
The love of the divine majesty grows in the land of poverty, humility and lowliness. So the Baptist says:
I must decrease, but he must increase. (Jn 3,30)
When private love decreases in a man, divine love is increased.
13. Benjamin (meaning ‘son of the right hand’) was previously called Benoni (‘son of sorrow’). He represents love of neighbour, for whom you should be sorry. So that Benoni says himself, Who is weak, and I am not weak? (2Co 11,29); and in Romans 9:
I have great sadness and continual sorrow in my heart for my brethren. (Rm 9,2-3)
If you love me, you will be sorry for my sorrow. The sorrow of your heart is a sign of your love for me. A mother sorrows over her sick son, because she loves him; if she did not love, she would never sorrow. Alas! How little- or not at all- we sorrow for our neighbour’s sorrow! And what is the reason? To be sure, we do not love him. And so we should sorrow because we do not sorrow, and "Sorrow should be the medicine for sorrow."8 Therefore let love of neighbour be first a ‘son of sorrow’, that afterwards it may be a ‘son of the right hand’, where we shall rejoice with him for ever. If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him (cf. Rm 8,17).
14. These, then, are two sons, and whoever has them is blessed, and it shall be well with him (cf. Ps 127,2). Unhappy is he who has them not, who mourns with Jacob and says (as in Gn 42):
You have made me to be without children: Joseph is not living, Benjamin you will take away. All these evils are fallen upon me. (Gn 42,36)
As for me, I shall be desolate without children. (Gn 43,14)
Natural History says that the eagle lays three eggs, but throws the third out of the nest, because it is too burdensome and enfeebling to feed three chicks. The three eggs are three loves- of God, of neighbour and of the world. The eagle (the just man) must throw the love of the world out of the nest of his conscience, so that he may be able to feed properly only two; for if he wanted to nurture the third, he would be burdened by bodily cares and enfeebled in virtue of mind, and so would become useless.
15. These, then, are two sons. Whose? Of the splendour of oil. Behold Rachel, who, as Genesis 29 says, was well favoured and of a beautiful countenance (Gn 29,17). Behold the splendour of oil, the glory of the soul, the joy of conscience which rises above every other liquid, the joy of temporal things. Of this oil, the Lord said to Moses in Leviticus 24:
Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee the purest and clearest oil of olives, to furnish the lamps continually, without the veil of the testimony. (Lv 24,2-3)
The children of Israel are the just and contemplatives, who bring ‘oil’ (joy of conscience) which is ‘purest’ as to themselves, and ‘clearest’ as to their neighbour. It is derived not from nuts (the trifles of the world and the flesh), but from olives (works of mercy). From such oil they ‘furnish’ (by preparing and equipping) the ‘lamps’ of their bodily senses ‘continually’, which are outside the ‘veil of testimony’, of which the Apostle says:
Our glory is this: the testimony of our conscience. (2Co 1,12)
The ‘veil’ is the secrecy of our minds, which we must place between ourselves and our neighbour. He cannot see beyond the veil, it is enough for him to see the lamps that have been made ready, so that by them the High Priest Jesus may be illuminated, he to whom all hearts are open, who enters beyond and within the veil, because the heart and its secrets are revealed to him.
There follows: Who stand before the Lord of all the earth. The love of God stands before him in humility and devotion of mind; the love of neighbour in compassion and succour. May Jesus Christ, who is blessed for ever, deign to bestow these two sons of love upon us. Amen.
1 cf. P.LOMBARD, Sententiae, III, dist. 23,4
2 cf. P.LOMBARD, Sententiae, IV, dist. 49.3
3 This quotation has not been traced in Augustine. Its source is unknown.
4 P.COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, in Evangelia, 154; PL 198.1619
5 III Esdras was not included in the Canon of Scripture by the Council of Trent, and is not contained in the Douai translation. It was included in medieval Bibles, being in the Septuagint, and the translation given is based on that of the Authorised Version of the Apocrypha.
6 P.COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, in Evangelia, 101; PL 198.1588
7 cf. ACTA SANCTORUM, S. Philippi Apostoli vita (where it gives ‘Scythia’ for ‘Syria’)
8 cf. CATO, Disticha, IV,40,2
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
1. At that time: There was a man of the Pharisees, by name Nicodemus. (Jn 3,1)
In this Gospel three things are noted: the regeneration of Baptism, the Ascension of Christ, and his Passion.
2. The regeneration of Baptism: There was a man of the Pharisees, by name Nicodemus, who, believing, asserted that Christ had come from God, because of the signs which he had seen. He was not reborn, however, and so he came by night, not by day, because he was not yet enlightened by the heavenly light. Alternatively, he came by night, perhaps, because being a master in Israel he was embarrassed to learn in public; or because he was afraid of the Jews. This man, because he had carefully noted the evident signs, asked more fully about the mysteries of the faith, and so merited to be taught about the second birth and entry into the kingdom of heaven, about the deity of Christ and his two-fold birth, about his Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, and many other matters. Note that Nicodemus, whose name means ‘outflow of earthliness’ is the type of those who believe perfectly, but do not yet have the light of perfect works, fearing carnal opinion and actions, such as the attacks of the unbelieving Jews. They have faith alone, and enjoy converse with Christ, but they do not have the confidence that comes from good works.
This is like what Natural History teaches about the owl. It has weak vision at noon-day, but at night it sees more clearly, and is then stronger, and flies with greater security. During the day other birds fly around it and pluck out its feathers, and because of this fowlers catch with it many other birds. The owl gets its name from its call, and it represents the Christian who is such in name only (for ‘christian’ comes from ‘Christ’), but does not have the reality of the name, the humility and charity of Christ, and so is called ‘an empty vessel with a label on’. He does not see clearly in the day, because he lacks the light of good works, but in the night he sees very keenly, because the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. (Lc 16,8). As it is said:
They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. (Jr 4,22)
3. There follows:
Jesus answered and said to him: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again... of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (Jn 3,3)
"In the Old Testament, the way of swearing by God was to say, As the Lord lives! (cf. 1R 26,10). In the New Testament, it is Amen, I say. And while in the other Evangelists it is said simply, in John alone it is redoubled, according to the saying: Let your speech be: Yea, yea (Mt 5,37), as though to say, I speak the truth in both heart and mouth."1 The Gloss says here, "The second birth of which Jesus teaches is spiritual, being from God and the Church, for life. But he understood only carnal birth, which is from Adam and Eve, for death. But just as he says that carnal birth cannot be repeated, so spiritual birth (whoever it is conferred by) cannot be repeated. They are born of the seed of the true Abraham (that is, Christ) whether by the free woman or by the servant."
By water and the Holy Spirit, he says. Fire, a pot, and food are three things. The fire is under the pot, the food is in the pot. The fire does not actually touch the food, and yet it heats it, purifies it and cooks it. The fire is the Holy Spirit, the human body is as it were a pot, and the soul is like food. Just as food is cooked by the heat of the fire through the means of the pot, so the Baptism of water, heated by the Holy Spirit, as it touches the body outwardly, purifies the soul from all its inner sins. The Holy Spirit came down at the river Jordan upon Christ who was baptised. He comes down daily in the Baptismal font upon any Christian, and by his power he is made a child of grace, from a child of wrath. So Christ heard, for his own sake and for those belonging to him: This is my beloved Son (Mt 3,17).
4. Morally. The Baptism of water and the Holy Spirit is Penance, of the spirit of contrition and the water of tearful confession; so that he who has lost his first innocence and grace by mortal sin, may be able to recover it by the power of this second rite. "This is the second plank after shipwreck."2 Eliseus spoke of this baptism to Naaman the Syrian, rich but leprous, in IV Kings 5:
Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall recover health, and thou shalt be clean. (2R 5,10)
Naaman means ‘graceful’, Syrian is ‘sublime’, Jordan is ‘river of judgement’. The sinner is outwardly beautiful, and inwardly (in his soul) a leper; ‘sublime’ (i.e. proud) above, a rich man below. If he wants to recover his health, he must come to the river of judgement, that is, he must approach confession with tears, where he may judge himself, and condemn his own evil deeds, and this ‘seven times’.
Regarding this, the Apostle says in II Corinthians 7:
Behold, this self-same thing, that you were made sorrowful according to God, how great
carefulness it worketh in you; yea defence, yea indignation, yea fear, yea desire, yea zeal, yea revenge. (2Co 7,11)
‘Sorrowful’ is as it were ‘broken’; this sorrow is contrition of heart in confession. This sorrow brings about the carefulness of satisfaction in the sinner; as Micah 4 says:
Be in pain and labour, O daughter of Sion, as a woman that bringeth forth. (Mi 4,10)
Compare the words: Martha was busy with much serving (Lc 10,40). ‘Labour’ and ‘busy’ both mean ‘doing enough’ or ‘satisfying’.
Yea defence, that is, self-accusation. He makes a good defence of himself before the judge of the heavenly court, when he accuses himself well before the judge of the Church. Job 6 says:
I will not spare my mouth, I will speak in the affliction of my spirit. (Jb 7,11)
He ‘spares his mouth’ when he tries to minimise or gloss over his sins in confession; he does not speak in affliction of spirit, who confesses dryly and as it were frivolously.
Yea indignation, against himself, not against fate or his neighbour. This is what Job did (chapter 13):
I tear my flesh with my teeth, and carry my soul in my hands.
Although he should kill me, I will trust in him.
But yet I will reprove my ways in his sight; and he shall be my saviour. (Jb 13,14-16)
It is a sign of great indignation, when someone tears their own flesh with their teeth. He ‘tears his flesh with his teeth’ who rebukes his carnal deeds with his own condemnations. Such a one ‘carries his soul in his hands’, ready to give it back to God at whatever hour he asks for it. Alternatively, the ‘soul’ is the life of the body- where the soul is, life is. ‘Life in one’s hands’ is charity, which is the soul of faith expressed in works. He who carries his soul like this, even though God afflicts him and kills him with temptation and persecution: nevertheless he trusts in him, knowing that he receives every son whom he reproves. The more he humbles himself, he reproves his ‘ways’, his actions, saying:
I have not received what I deserved. (Jb 33,27)
Yea fear, lest he fall into the same or similar plight. See how you walk circumspectly (Ep 5,15), he says. Natural History says that the chameleon (the name means ‘earth lion’) is extremely thin, because it has little blood. It is very timid, and because of its timidity it changes its colour into many colours, because its fear is increased by its lack
of blood and lessening of heat. This is almost literally true of the humble and contrite penitent! He may be called ‘earth lion’, because like a lion he subdues and treads down the earth of his flesh. He is thin and bloodless through much abstinence. He may be called ‘very timid’, because having experienced danger, he is afraid that a hook is hidden in every food. Or else, he fears because he does not see in himself sufficient blood of contrition, or heat of divine love, that he may safely frequent the danger or occasion of sin. He who does not have these two things, I pray and advise him to be afraid of dangerous placers, and, by fearing them, flee from them.
Yea desire; of which was said: With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you (Lc 22,15)
He should always desire to pass, day by day, to a greater perfection, and at length from the world to the Father.
Yea zeal, to imitate. Be zealous for the better gifts (1Co 12,31), he says. Zeal may be envious, or it may be desire to imitate. To ‘emulate’ is to ‘mill out’. He who desires to imitate another’s virtues must needs carefully grind out his own life in the mill of conscience, and, when he has done so, show others an example that they may imitate. Alternatively, the zealous man is one who extracts the grain of virtue from another’s sack, and puts it into the mill of his own heart, to grind it carefully into fine flour, from which to make bread, which first he eats himself, and then gives to others.
Yea revenge, of which Luke 18 says: A certain widow cried to the judge: Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a long time. (Lc 18,3-4). The ‘widow’ is the soul, widowed from her spouse, the Holy Spirit, to whom she was joined in Baptism, after mortal sin. She, troubled because of her sin, cries to the judge (who should judge himself), Avenge me of my adversary, this body. And because the sinner fears neither God, ‘whose fear is not before his eyes’ (cf. Ps 35,2), nor has respect for man, because ‘he has a harlot’s forehead, he would not blush’ (cf. Jr 3,3), he is unwilling to vindicate the widow (that is, to do penance) for a long time, because he has many sins and has been a long time in them. But in the end, at the shouting and gnawing of conscience, he avenges the widow: he judges himself, and condemns the adversary (his own body) in the court of penitence, and shuts it up, condemned, in the prison of penance, until it gives full satisfaction to the widow. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (MORAL SERMON)